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'Gossip Girl' premiere: Serena still missing

Ed Westwick as Chuck Bass, Chace Crawford as

Ed Westwick as Chuck Bass, Chace Crawford as Nate Archibald, Leighton Meester as Blair Waldorf, Michelle Trachtenberg as Georgina Sparks and Penn Badgley as Dan Humphrey in the "Gone Maybe Gone" episode of "Gossip Girl." Credit: The CW

THE SHOW "Gossip Girl"

WHEN | WHERE Season premiere Monday night at 9 on CW/11

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Summer has ended and Serena (Blake Lively) has gone missing, which is odd (she ended the fifth season on a bender so maybe not that odd). Even Gossip Girl hasn't posted anything about her since the spring. Friends and family are worried: To search for her, Blair (Leighton Meester) returns from France, Georgina (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Dan (Penn Badgley) from Italy, where he has been lubricating his muse, while he writes another book; Chuck (Ed Westwick) from Dubai, with new friend, Amira (Andrea Gabriel), who knows something about his father's empire.

Meanwhile, dear old dad himself, Bart Bass (Robert John Burke) and wife Lily (Kelly Rutherford) have also joined in the hunt for Serena. Where is she? Does even GG know how this will all turn out? "Let's face it," she says with practiced world weariness. "I've been at this a long time, but age breeds wisdom and this I know: The best is yet to come."

MY SAY And this I know: The best had better come soon because the series wraps in just 10 episodes. Revealing the identity of GG herself should be a headline worth waiting for, but as an intriguing new character observes next week, "No one in high school reads Gossip Girl anymore -- it's for old people." (Maybe that headline will be a small one, then.) Do fans still care about the fates of Chuck, Blair, Dan, Serena and Nate (Chace Crawford)? Of course, but they also suspect these characters will be preserved in amber -- rich, young, spoiled, good-looking and foolish for all eternity. "Gossip Girl's" cultural moment, in fact, passed a couple years ago, but that doesn't mean the show can't have a good time adding the finishing touches. If the first two episodes are any indication, it will. Tonight's episode is breezy, entertaining and -- as usual -- sharply written. Meanwhile, Nelly Yuki (Yin Chang) -- victimized by Blair back at Constance Billard -- returns to the series next week. Is she the real GG or a red herring? As GG herself might say, wouldn't YOU like to know? XOXO.

BOTTOM LINE The "Girl" is getting older, but there's still pleasure to be had on the final lap.


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